Himalayan landscape is witnessing no snow this winter. No snow meant no tourists, and no tourists meant dream shattered for many expecting tourist footfalls for their tourism businesses — hotel bookings, hot chais, hot chapatis — all gone with the wind.
By Salam Rajesh
Tourists planning for their winter holidays in the mountain landscape of Himachal Pradesh were rudely shaken by a mysterious hand of God — no snow! The snow-laden white mountainscapes of the Himalayan State, like Lahual-Spiti, have always drawn hundreds of skiers and snow-revellers every year, but December-end 2023 and beginning of January 2024 disappointed many. There were only brown capes and no white capes!
Newspapers covering this phenomenal process in the Himalayan landscape juggled between two important aspects — the real-time impact of climate change and the hard-hit impact on businesses. No snow meant no tourists, and no tourists meant dream shattered for many expecting tourist footfalls for their tourism businesses — hotel bookings, hot chais, hot chapatis — all gone with the wind.
The Himachal experience is interesting from many aspects, of which the significant ones are the rapid process in which climate change discussions are arriving at our doorsteps and the manner in which apparent climate change process is directly impacting people’s lives beyond what the average population expected or read about in newspapers. For many, the climate discourse would be those happening in far-away Arctic Circle and never for once imagining it is knocking at the door.
The year 2023 was recorded as the hottest year in a century, with August-September months recording maximum temperatures in these past many decades, and it is expected that the year 2024 will further breach the record. El Nino entered the region’s scene midway last year and for the layman it would be hard to relate how this weather process may have likely impacted the Himachal experience.
On another aspect, winter pollution level in neighbouring regions could also be lending a hand in affecting changes in the regional micro climatic regime. For instance, according to climate watch group Climate Trends, last year the national capital region of Delhi experienced a surge in winter pollution being attributed to factors like meteorological conditions and increased emissions. In neighboring Chandigarh, the pollution levels for January, February, and August to November in 2023 showed increase in winter pollution level. And, least to say, Lucknow’s pollution levels in August and September last year fell below the Indian standard of 40 mg/m3.
Pollution and greenhouse gas emission on a larger scale are part of the game changers in affecting reasonable changes in local climatic regimes, added with the spice of global level climate change processes. The world at large is currently busy with so many discussions on how the world is headed to a collision with a possible 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperature by the year 2050, meaning the intensity of summer temperature is likely to surpass the 50 degree Celsius mark. At this measure, many countries will be boiling and mountainscapes are going to be brown instead of white in winter.
And so, the climate debates at Aichi, Kyoto, Paris, Montreal, Berlin, Geneva, and many other cities around the world has apparently arrived at our doorsteps in earnest, which interestingly is reflected in the current scenario where the Himalayan state of Himachal is losing its snow in winter, as unimaginable as it can be!
At Dubai’s COP28 meet on climate finance last year, the heads of the Adaptation Fund, the Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environment Facility and the Green Climate Fund together made a joint declaration announcing their climate ambitions.
The declaration stated that ‘the need for collective, urgent, and ambitious action on climate is greater than ever before. As the results of the first global stocktake make clear, the world is not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. While progress is seen in some areas, much more is needed to reach net zero and adapt to climate impacts. A rigorous “all of economy, all of society” approach is needed across all systems and sectors’.
On this end, the four entities pledged to work collectively to ‘enhance access to climate finance by working together across the areas of our activities’. In brief, they pledge to:
- We will seek to increase collaboration within our capacity – building support, recognizing that developing countries need the capacity to turn climate plans into projects, and to move from ambition to action.
- We will aim to develop greater synergies within our programming and between our theories of change, and to scale up projects. The MCFs (multilateral climate funds) have a number of collaborative programming initiatives which are already realizing strong results. We will develop this work and further explore the potential for joint programming initiatives that could allow us to deploy our collective resources at a larger scale and with greater efficiency.
- We will ramp up our collaborative work on monitoring, evaluation, and learning, including through the development of common indicators, alignment of our results frameworks, and the development of a common database for climate projects taking into account innovative tools.
- We will move towards harmonization of our procedures and processes, recognizing that complex application procedures, which are different for each fund, can be a significant barrier to accessing to climate finance.
This is the level of urgency in global climate finance debates seeking collateral activities aimed at speeding up the execution of multilateral work programs to meet climate goals within the stipulated time frame, which is roughly between the years 2030 and 2050 as discussed in several forums under the United Nations system.
In an emotional outburst, the UN secretary general Antonio Gueterres recently had called out to world leaders that the world is headed for climate catastrophe if countries are not willing to pool in their resources to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets well in time. In fact, several countries are currently experiencing the climate heat with phenomenal wildfires, floods, droughts, sea level rise, cyclonic storms, cloudbursts, glacial retreats, and many other processes, of which perhaps Himachal going snowless this winter could be hard evidence.